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Sickle Cell Trait: 3 Ways to Stay Healthy

If you have sickle cell trait, the best way to keep yourself healthy is to do 3 things:

1. Drink lots of water every day. Water helps to keep your blood flowing smoothly. Your doctor can tell you exactly how much you should drink, but a good rule is about 8 glasses a day. Try to drink extra water if:

  • You’re thirsty.
  • You’re flying on an airplane.
  • You exercise hard (like in a competitive sport or military training).
  • You plan to climb a mountain or scuba dive.
  • You have blood in your urine. (Pee might look pink, red, or brown.)
  • You have pain.

2. Exercise safely. Pay attention to how you feel. Be sure to:

  • Ease into a new sports season.
  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercise.
  • Rest when you’re tired.
  • Know the signs of trouble and speak up. Tell your coach or trainer if you have muscle pain or cramps; feel exhausted or overheated; or get out of breath. Then, rest, drink water, and cool off. Call your doctor when you feel better.

3. Talk with your doctor often. They want to support you in staying well. Contact them about anything, especially if you:

  • develop any symptoms. Call them right away.
  • are being tested for diabetes. The blood test for diabetes (called hemoglobin A1c) might not work well in people with sickle cell trait. The doctor might need to use a different kind of test.
  • are curious about new discoveries about sickle cell trait
  • are wondering about starting a family someday. Your doctor can tell you about your chances of having a child with sickle cell disease and how you can make that less likely.

Reviewed by: Corinna L. Schultz, MD
Date Reviewed: Apr 1, 2023

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